Phone foulup stings CardsBobby Valentine thought about the bizarre events he had seen in Game 5 of the World Series, when 19th-century technology fouled up Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s kind of stupid, isn’t it?” said Valentine, who’s managed more than 2,000 major league ballgames.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bobby Valentine thought about the bizarre events he had seen in Game 5 of the World Series, when 19th-century technology fouled up Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s kind of stupid, isn’t it?” said Valentine, who’s managed more than 2,000 major league ballgames.
In the age of email, texting, iChat and Skype, baseball remains tied to the traditions established in the Civil War era of flannel uniforms. La Russa conveyed his decisions to the bullpen with a device born the same year as the National League: the telephone.
And when the instructions didn’t get through to bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist — twice! — baseball lore was made with the Cardinals’ 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday night, a game that will be forever known as the “Phone Foulup.”
Now St. Louis is trailing 3-2 in the Series and must win two in a row for the title.
“It’s amazing,” said baseball historian Keith Olbermann, a commentator on Current TV. “With all this technology here, they can’t get a phone call completed from one part of the building to another part of the building? You go to an Apple store, the communications device the salesman is carrying is capable of launching a nuclear device. It’s mind-boggling.”
For all the high-tech scoreboards in each ballpark and computers in each clubhouse that track every pitch, decisions on which relievers to warm up are passed along on Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of 1876. While there were 328 million wireless devices in the U.S. as of June, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association, baseball sticks with land lines, of which there are 114 million.
And because of that, the World Series rings fans were talking about Tuesday had nothing to do with the shiny ones on players’ fingers, but rather the old-fashioned-sounding bells that sound off on bullpen phones.
After the game, with Rangers Ballpark nearly empty, the bullpen phone 400 or so feet away could be heard ringing when the narrow black handset with the gray pushbuttons was picked up in the visitors dugout on the third-base side. But with a crowd of 51,459 a few hours earlier, an unbelievable meltdown occurred.
With the score 2-all, right-hander Octavio Dotel replaced Chris Carpenter to start the eighth inning and Michael Young doubled. Adrian Beltre struck out and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked.
La Russa said he had told Lilliquist to have the left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and right-hander Jason Motte warm up, but Lilliquist only heard “Rzepczynski” — La Russa now thinks Lilliquist may have hung up after hearing the first name.
Going by the numbers (lefties hit .163 off Rzepczynski during the regular season and righties batted .275), La Russa brought in Rzepczynski to face lefty David Murphy.
Murphy hit a comebacker that could have become an inning-ending double play, but instead deflected off the reliever’s bare hand for an infield single that loaded the bases and caused La Russa’s head to snap back in shock. Then La Russa noticed that Motte was not warming up, and he called the bullpen again to have his closer start throwing. But Lilliquist said he thought he heard “Lynn,” for right-hander Lance Lynn, who was supposed to be resting after throwing 47 pitches in Game 3.
With Motte (.162 vs. righties and .270 vs. lefties) still not warming up, La Russa left Rzepczynski in to face Mike Napoli, who sent a slider into the right-center gap for a two-run double.
Puzzled Cardinals fans Tuesday might have been thinking of the famous line from “Cool Hand Luke” — “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
“I said, man, this is stuff that I hope happens on a Wednesday game on the road someplace that nobody is there. Then of course it wouldn’t have happened that way,” La Russa recalled. “The phones are preventable. It’s my fault for not handling it better and making sure. All I had to do was look in the bullpen — repeat — to make sure.”